A former National Assembly member and opposition leader, Musallam al-Barrak has been found guilty of insulting Kuwait’s emir and sentenced to five years in prison.

Kuwait’s criminal court issued its verdict amid tight security measures around the Palace of Justice. Al-Barrak was accused of insulting Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, at an opposition rally in October 2012.

The 57-year old’s case has been marked by controversy. His lawyers walked out of the court in early April in protest at the judge, Wael al-Atiqi’s refusal to hear defence witnesses. The legal team had asked for Kuwait’s prime minister, to appear as a witness.

According to the local Kuwait Times newspaper, opposition activists have been organising sit-ins and rallies at Al-Barrak’s residence in support. Falah Al-Sawwagh, another former member of parliament warned that jailing Al-Barrak would trigger a strong reaction from Kuwaitis.

Another 70 opposition activists are also due in court on charges of storming the National Assembly building in November 2011. Al-Barrak was also among the activists. Kuwait’s criminal court has also sentenced activists to two years in prison for insulting the emir on social networking site, Twitter.